The Truth in Sales

Well, once again we have an instance of an author behaving badly floating around the internet, but no matter when you’re reading this you’ll find one. In this case there was catfishing and lying. And this got me thinking about the last decade or so that I’ve spent in selling.

Let’s get this clear from the beginning, I am not a salesperson. I refuse to call myself that. Nevermind the fact that I was our company’s only sales person for several years, never mind that I’ve also managed a Sales Team and been responsible for the Marketing Department.

In my mind a salesperson is flash. It’s the Used Car Salesman of old or the Insurance Dude who convinces you you’re about to die any second. But, I know an actual used car salesman and I know a man who sells insurance and both of them use the same selling techniques I do. True sales, quality sales, sales that last a lifetime are built on trust.

As writers we’re not just selling this book that we have in our hands, we’re selling a whole career. If you lie and cheat to get that book in someone’s hand all they’ll ever feel is betrayed. They’ll tell all their friends about how you called it one thing and it was actually another. This is why I get frustrated when I see friends incorrectly labeling their books. It’s why I get frustrated when people try to pitch their story on the flash and not the substance.

Trying to sell in the wrong space with the wrong message is a lack of confidence.

Back at my dayjob my co-workers often joked about what a terrible salesperson I was because I went right to the negative aspects of something. The most famous incident was the time I was trying to get rid of the ginseng candy I bought when I thought I’d grabbed ginger candy. To each person I offered the ginseng candy to I warned them: it tastes like dirt.

Invariably the person would say a variation on, “I thought you were trying to get rid of it, why would you tell me that?”

Until the 16yo, mogul in the making, who got a light in his eyes when I told him it tasted like dirt. So I went on. “You know I’m just flat out honest in what I’m getting rid of, but you can tell your friends it tastes like anything.”

There he was. A very, very satisfied customer ready to torment his friends with dirt candy.

This is how you sell. Effectively, long-term.

It’s a matter of changing your perspective: You’re not trying to sell this book, you’re trying to gain a fan. You’re working on becoming a respected author, but you write YOUR books, not anyone else’s. I know the feeling of, “If I can just get it in their hands…” but that’s not entirely true. Especially when we’re starting out we want to get our books in the hands of the person who will love it.

There is no more effective salesperson than someone who truly loves your book, be that an agent, a fan, a friend or a blogger. But the key is that they love YOUR BOOK, not the imaginary book you’re pretending it is.

Good sales, sales that last a lifetime are built on trust, don’t undermine yourself before someone even knows your name by ruining your reputation. You’re going to need that for the next book.